Thoughts from the book When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up by Dr. Michael D. Sedler

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak…  – Ecclesiastes 3:7

It takes wisdom to know when to speak up and when to keep silent. When I saw this title, I knew I could learn some things from Dr. Sedler, and indeed I did.  Dr. Sedler shares communication skills that will benefit leaders and families, employees, and teenagers.

Today I want to share excerpts from his first three chapters explaining:

  • why people tend to keep silent and excuses for not speaking up
  • consequences of not speaking up when you should
  • questions to ask to help discern whether you should speak up

Why people tend to keep silent Whether at work or within a marriage, some people choose not to share their thoughts, beliefs, or stand up for what they believe is right. Dr. Sedler offers six possible reasons people do not speak up.

Reasons a person might keep silent:

  • May have nothing to add to a situation
  • May feel no one will listen
  • May feel intimidated by the environment and not feel comfortable expressing personal thoughts and convictions
  • May feel that it is none of his business to share personal impressions
  • May be fearful of repercussions
  • May simply not care

These reasons may be rooted in low self-confidence, fear, an unhealthy atmosphere or culture, or apathy.  Apathy can result in excuses so as not to have to deal with an unpleasant situation.

Excuses for not speaking up:

  • It’s his life. Let him make his own decisions.
  • She’s old enough to make up her own mind.
  • I’m not his mother.
  • It’s none of my business.
  • She knows the consequences of her actions.

Consequences of not speaking up when you should If we remain silent when we could’ve said something, we bear some of the responsibility of the consequences. The Nuremberg war trials made a cogent and legal point on this issue. What situations have you experienced or witnessed, or read about where there were unfortunate outcomes from not speaking out?

When the consequences are great, it is important to speak up, no matter how difficult that may be for us. The key is to approach the situation with wisdom.  Dr. Sedler offers this advice:

“The key is that the other person can see your heart of service. Examine your own life and what experience you have to speak on the subject. Ask questions to make sure you have all the facts. “

Questions to ask to help discern whether to speak up Many people have no problem speaking their mind but could use some coaching in their approach.

Before confronting a friend or family member, ask yourself some questions:

  • Have I prayed about the situation and those involved?
  • Am I the right person to speak in this situation?
  • Am I attacking the person or helping him see the problem?
  • Do I have any solutions for the situation?
  • Do I need to own some of the problem? What part?
  • Am I attempting to exalt myself? Am I being condescending?
  • What is my motive for confronting this situation?
  • Am I willing to change, to be challenged or to support an alternative decision?
  • Am I able to find peace if the situation does not change?

When you have the honest answers to these questions, you will be able to make a wise choice whether to proceed with approaching the other person about a concern.  Dr. Sedler offers much advice and further “how to’s” for speaking up in many different situations.

In the next several articles we will explore his suggestions for speaking up to authority and dealing with peer pressure.  You won’t want to miss these!

-Jan Jones

Check out this video for great pointers on speaking up!